Many homeowners associations have rules about HOA landscaping — what plants residents can use, how often to mow their lawns, and other similar regulations. It is important to understand these rules so homeowners can follow them to the letter. After all, noncompliance can result in various unsavory consequences, ranging from monetary to legal.
In this article:
Who Is Responsible for HOA Landscaping?
In a homeowners association, landscaping is important in preserving property values. While an association’s governing documents can go into more specifics, an HOA is generally responsible for the landscaping in common areas, while the homeowners are responsible for the landscaping in their individual properties.
In keeping up with HOA landscape maintenance, an association sometimes offers homeowners landscaping services. The fees for the landscaping services will then be included in the HOA dues. However, it still ultimately depends on the association.
What Are HOA Landscaping Guidelines?
It is common for homeowners associations to have a set of guidelines that dictate what residents can and can’t do with their landscaping. The purpose of these guidelines is to maintain the community’s overall aesthetics and character by conforming to a pre-determined style. In doing so, the community preserves curb appeal and protects property values.
Abiding by homeowners association landscaping rules is mandatory. When a homeowner breaks a rule, they face several possible consequences. Penalties for violations can vary from association to association, though they usually involve a monetary fine, a suspension of privileges, and even legal action.
Normally, an HOA will allow offenders to remedy the situation, especially if it’s their first offense. However, it still depends on the provisions included in the governing documents. Fines are other disciplinary actions that typically follow afterward.
Examples of Common HOA Landscaping Rules
No two homeowners associations are made equal. As such, one HOA’s landscaping rules may differ from another’s. That being said, some rules are more universally shared than others.
Here are the most common examples of HOA landscape guidelines.
1. Plant Palette
Often, an HOA has a pre-approved plant palette, a list of plants that homeowners can include in their landscaping. If an owner wishes to get a plant not included in the list, they must secure permission from the HOA. There is no guarantee, of course, that the HOA will approve the request.
Furthermore, it is common for an HOA to disallow certain plants. There are a few reasons behind this. For one thing, these plants may not coincide with the landscaping aesthetic of the community. Disallowed plants may also be hazardous to wildlife or be more prone to pests.
An HOA board needs to be aware of the state laws that may affect landscaping rules, though. Homeowners may want to plant drought-resistant plants, which is known as xeriscaping. In some states, HOAs are not legally permitted to prohibit owners from xeriscaping. Two examples that come to mind are California (Section 4735) and Texas (Section 202.007).
2. Lawn Furniture or Sculptures
Lawn decorations, furniture, or sculptures may also be subject to limitations to maintain the community’s aesthetic. These limitations may also serve to protect the health of residents. For example, birdbaths and small fountains can be a health risk as they attract mosquitoes and other pests.
3. Personal Gardens
An HOA may not allow residents to grow fruits and vegetables as part of a personal garden. Such a garden can attract pests and wildlife, but it can also be unappealing to the eyes during the off-season. Some communities, though, make up for this restriction by setting up a community garden that owners can share.
Hardscaping is a good option if homeowners want something low-maintenance but still chic. However, some HOAs have rules against or limiting hardscaping. An HOA could prohibit it outright or dictate what materials owners can use. Most associations also have a say when it comes to the design.
5. Lawn Maintenance
It is common for communities to have HOA lawn maintenance guidelines. Examples of these guidelines include keeping lawns trimmed or trimming them every X number of days. Homeowners may also be required to pull out any weeds, water their lawns occasionally, and keep lawns clean of any debris.
6. Tree Removal
An HOA may prohibit owners from removing trees without reason or permission. Trees add value and function to a community, so it’s uncommon for an association to give owners full agency to remove them. Additionally, an HOA may require owners to prune trees, especially before winter.
7. Fence Restrictions
An association may require homeowners to keep fences at a certain height or use specific materials to build them. For example, an HOA may allow picket fences but disallow metal ones. It is also normal for an HOA to regulate fence color. In some communities, fences may even be prohibited altogether.
Do You Need HOA Approval for Landscaping?
Typically, homeowners need approval from their HOA for any changes to their landscaping. This approval usually comes from the HOA board or a separate HOA landscaping committee. Sometimes, though, the architectural review committee will absorb the duties of a landscaping committee as well, especially in smaller communities. Before owners can change, improve, or redo their landscaping, they must adhere to the HOA landscape committee guidelines.
HOA Landscape Committee Guidelines for Approval
While HOAs can have different guidelines for approval, they usually follow three simple steps.
1. Submit a Request for Approval
Homeowners will typically need to complete a form and attach supporting documents. These documents can include but are not limited to design or layout mockups and plant list specifications. Most associations require owners to hire a licensed and insured landscaping company. Moreover, they will ask homeowners to set a timeline for the completion of the project.
To increase the chances of approval, homeowners must review the HOA landscaping rules. This will help them ensure their applications adhere to the community’s guidelines.
2. Review the Request
After submission, the landscaping committee or HOA board will review the request. This review should take place following state laws and the governing documents. The board or committee can follow up with the homeowner if certain details are missing.
3. Approval or Denial
Once a decision is made, the homeowner will receive a letter informing them of it. If the HOA denies a request, the letter will usually contain the reason behind the decision and give the owner a chance to redo the proposal. If the HOA approves a request, the owner should stick to the approved design and timeline to avoid violations.
HOA Landscaping Done Right
One of the tangible things that can beautify a community is HOA landscaping. Far too many homeowners, though, find it difficult to navigate the landscaping rules of their association. Even more, HOA boards struggle with reviews and enforcement. Fortunately, an HOA management company can assist with all this and more.
Elite Management Services provides exceptional services to homeowners associations and condominiums. Call us today at (855) 238-8488 or contact us online to learn more!
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